Trump rally in Burlington met with local opposition

Residents stand across the street from the Flynn to protest Donald Trump's rally Jan. 7. RYAN THORNTON/The Vermont Cynic
Residents stand across the street from the Flynn to protest Donald Trump’s rally Jan. 7. RYAN THORNTON/The Vermont Cynic

Before Donald Trump took the stage at his Burlington campaign rally, a voice boomed over a loudspeaker in the Flynn Theater: “If there is a protester beside you, please throw your hands over your head and start chanting ‘Trump’.”

After the voice faded out, The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t Always Get What You Want” rang through the theater as the crowd awaited the presidential hopeful with Trump posters and cheers.

“Mr. Trump believes in the First Amendment, just as much as the Second,” the voice over the loudspeaker said.

The Jan. 7 rally was a private event paid for by Trump, it continued, so protesters had been asked to remain outside.

Police watch the line of people outside the Flynn, waiting to see Trump's rally. RYAN THORNTON/The Vermont Cynic
Police watch the line of people outside the Flynn, waiting to see Trump’s rally Jan. 7. RYAN THORNTON/The Vermont Cynic

Outside, a crowd gathered, divided by fences on either side of Main Street.  

One side protested his appearance, while the other cheered in anticipation.

“Take your hate out of our state!” hundreds on the City Hall side of Main Street chanted, prompted by a sign made by junior Rosie Contompasis with the words written on it.

Contompasis explained that she was here because she felt she felt she needed to stand up to someone she thinks threatens her country.

“Trump is the embodiment of hatred and bigotry, [and] that is not an American value,” she said.

On the other side, Trump supporters waiting in line to enter the theater responded to protesters.  

They chanted, “USA, USA, USA! Trump, Trump, Trump!” 

A crowd of attendees look on people protesting Trump inside the Flynn Dec. 7. RYAN THORNTON/The Vermont Cynic

For many, the day began nearly 12 hours earlier.


Trump supporters, Sanders supporters and those who without a political motive stood side-by-side in a line that extended along Saint Paul Street and into the South End.

Near the front of the line stood UVM senior Colleen Cataldo, holding a Bernie Sanders for president sign.

“Bernie has grown up here as a politician, I think Trump is here to kind of undermine Bernie, but I am hoping that we will stay strong as a state, and support Bernie all the way,” she said.

Cataldo said she has been a Sanders fan for as long as she can remember.

“I sold blueberries to raise money for his campaign once,” she said.

Though Sanders and Trump are both candidates for change, they differ in what kind of change they will try to enact as president, Cataldo said.

“Bernie’s change is progressive, while Trump’s is regressive,” she said.

The best part of the event was standing in line meeting and talking with people, Cataldo said.

Sophomore Ethan Baldwin waited in line with his two sisters, his mother and friend.  

“I am here because my sister, [Abby], told me to come,” he said, with a smile on his face.

Baldwin’s sister, Abby, said she was there to hear Trump speak, and possibly hear something she had not heard before.

“There is a lot out there – but I want to get a chance to hear him for myself,” she said.

The first in the line was Mark Conrad, a Burlington resident who arrived at 4:30 a.m. in hopes of seeing UVM students protest, he said.

“I am a Bernie supporter, but I am here to see the spectacle that surrounds Donald Trump,” Conrad said.

He was surprised to see that no students were there early in the morning, he said.

A crowd to protest Trump did not begin to gather until 3 p.m.

In the meantime, many stopped to take pictures of a collection of Bernie Sanders paintings by local artist Dug Nap, displayed in the window of local art store Frog Hollow.  

One passerby who took a picture was UVM alumna Taylor Hannan and her mother and grandmother, who had just come from the Flynn to see the event and its proceedings unravel.

“It was very interesting to see the dynamic, here is definitely a variety of different people there – they’re not all Trump fans,” she said.

Everyone stood together in line – suits and sweatpants, those in Trump T-shirts and those in Bernie T-shirts, old and the young alike.

Martin Deslauriers, wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap, awaited the presidential hopeful in that line.

He said there was one reason why he supported Trump and one reason why he was in that line: “America.”

Inside the theater, those waiting on line since the early morning began to trickle in slowly starting at 5 p.m.

By 7 p.m., the scheduled start time of the rally, the Flynn Theater, which seats over 1,400 people was nearly half full.

Senior SGA senator Dylan Letendre arrived at 4 p.m. to see the Republican frontrunner, but left to watch the event online

“The event had started and we were too far from the door, we would not have made it in at all,” he said.

Donald Trump was greeted by excitement as he appeared on the stage, arriving thirty minutes after he was introduced by members of his campaign.

“Vermont – where the air is so nice and clean,” he said.

Trump’s speech consisted of foreign policy critique, an analysis of his opponents and the medial coverage of his campaign and himself.

He mentioned various infamous moments of his campaign, such as the controversial wall he said he will build between Mexico and the United States.

“I am going to build a wall … and who is going to pay for the wall?” he asked the audience.

“Mexico,” they responded.  

He laughed. “No one can build a wall like me,” he said.

At this remark a woman shouted over the balcony of the theater:“You racist fucking asshole!”

Protesters followed her lead and began shouting.

“Throw ‘em out into the cold,” Trump told Flynn security.

Protesters began shouting in small numbers every few minutes, many chanting Bernie Sanders’ name.

“Bernie has our backs,” one group began chanting.

The chance to run against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders would be a “dream come true,” Trump said.  “I would love to run against Bernie Sanders.”